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Experimental Psychology: Human Factors Psychology


Patricia R. DeLucia [Faculty Page] [Research Page]

My research program focuses on theoretical and applied issues in visual perception and human factors. My primary interests include the perception of collision, motion, and depth; patient safety, performance in nursing. Human-factors applications include transportation safety (driving and aviation), virtual reality, night vision goggles, sport, and human factors in medicine (minimally-invasive surgery; patient safety; performance in nursing). For example, your decision of when to swing the bat at the ball is a perceptual judgment about when the ball will hit the bat, known in the literature as a judgment of time to contact (TTC). It has been shown that TTC is available in the two-dimensional pattern of light that reaches the eye or optic flow, or tau. Tau-based models of performance have been highly influential and raise doubts about traditional (cognitive) theories of depth perception because they do not require mental processes or pictorial depth cues. My research demonstrates that depth cues and cognitive processes can influence TTC judgments despite the presence of tau. Similarly, to avoid a rear-end collision, drivers must detect that the car ahead of them is decelerating. Our research indicates that the type of information that drivers use to detect deceleration depends on how far ahead the lead car is located. This suggests that the processes that underlie space perception depend on distance. Finally, in other research examined whether three separate views of space—a top view, frontal view, and side view, would improve perceptual-motor performance. Results show that observers relied upon the top view and did not utilize the other views. Our most recent work in this areas suggests that the multiple displays that surgeons use in the already cluttered operating room can be integrated into one split-screen display without a detrimental effect on performance.

Jamie C. Gorman [Faculty Page]

When functioning as a coordinated whole, teams can accomplish more than individuals working alone. The implications of this are profound, as teams of humans and machines become increasingly vital for accomplishing complicated tasks. What is the nature of team coordination such that the whole greater than the sum of the parts? What are the mechanisms for team-level cognitive control? How do teams adapt? These are some of the research questions we address in my lab. A large part of this work involves the study of learning, retention, and transfer of team coordination. Just as nonlinear dynamics pervade coordination in motor and molecular systems, team coordination dynamics is the paradigm used for understanding the emergence of coordinated behavior in teams.

This research program is currently being carried out in the context of team planning and creative problem solving, medical teamwork, and team coordination in remotely-controlled task environments (e.g., a remotely-operated rover). In each of these contexts, be it human-human or human-machine teams, the primary unit of analysis is team interaction; however, we are also interested in coordination dynamics across levels of analysis. Therefore, in addition to measuring and modeling the coordination dynamics of the team as a whole, we simultaneously measure and model the dynamics of team components (e.g., human components; technological components) as they interact. That allows us to study how environmental disturbances, called perturbations, are propagated across distant team components.

Keith S. Jones [Faculty Page]

My students and I research basic and applied aspects of the interaction between people and technology in diverse domains. Our research has been influenced by James J. Gibson's ecological approach to perception, as well as others who share a systems-oriented approach to human factors psychology. Our research revolves around two Gibsonian concepts:

(1) Direct vs. Indirect Perception. Gibson (1979/1984) argued that direct perception is not mediated by cognitive processes, whereas indirect perception stems from cognition. Given this distinction, we have studied distance estimation training programs, which are generally very cognitive. Our work demonstrated that the typical way to train distance estimation degraded the performance of an action that would normally be guided by direct perception.

(2) Affordance Perception. Gibson (1977) stated “the affordance of anything is a specific combination of the properties of its substance and its surfaces taken with reference to an animal” (p. 67). For example, an aperture’s pass-through-ness depends on its size relative to the size of the individual trying to pass through it. With this in mind, we are conducting two lines of human-robot interaction research. First, we study why operators got tele-operated robots stuck in apertures. Our initial work demonstrated that operators understood whether the robot was smaller or larger than an aperture, and that operators were sometimes unable to drive the robot through apertures that were wider than the robot. Consequently, we suggested that operators must base decisions to enter apertures on their ability to control the robot. However, subsequent work demonstrated that operators could not do so. Future research will examine ways to overcome this limitation. Second, we study how people judge whether another person can perform a given action. Given that knowledge, we will program robots to perceive the affordances for a human.

Martina Inge Klein [Faculty Page]

My research focuses heavily on basic and applied human factors issues in the medical environment, with specific emphasis on skill acquisition, experiences of mental workload and mental stress in the laparoscopic and robotic surgery environments. Towards that end, my research projects included the assessment of the impact of camera location in the laparoscopic environment on task-performance (i.e., laparoscopy is a form of minimally invasive surgery in which a camera projects the target tissue onto a monitor). Further, I am interested in assessing novice traps (mistakes trainees might make) in the medical environment. One study that assessed such traps in the laparoscopic environment employed task-analytic methods; the results indicated multiple novice traps in the laparoscopic surgery environment, including the difficulty to determine if an adhesion is flimsy or not . I also assessed the impact of visual scanning on performance of a laparoscopic training tasks and a secondary monitoring task; the results indicated performance impairment of the monitoring task after participants have been stressed. Further, I am extending my research to include transcranial doppler sonography, which measures changes in blood flow velocity of the cerebral arteries, to make inferences about mental workload in the surgical environment. My research projects include the use of physiological, questionnaire and qualitative approaches (task-analytic methods); research funding has been received from Intuitive Surgical, Inc. and the Association for Surgical Education.